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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  November 20, 2011 11:15pm-12:00am EST

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he speaks of the jimmy carter library museum in atlanta for just over an hour. >> thanks for coming out on a random wednesday night to read and i want to apologize for my voice. i have a cold eye caught from my 2-year-old. anyway, again, this is the book and it came out two weeks ago. jesus land, my first book, was about my relationship with my brother david and growing and the rural town in indiana and then being sent off to a reform school in dominican republic. so there were parallels between the two books as far as race and kind of belonging to a cloistered society, which religion, and also being sent away, and i think especially
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when i got to the part writing about jonestown and house occluded and isolated and cut off from the world the jonestown residents were i could really empathize with those people, and oddly enough there were some punishment's used that were similar to the punishments use of my reform school. for example, when people ran away from my reform school they had their heads shaved or they were put on something called running support where they had to run from place to place. so there was kind of interesting to see those parallels. and the book has this origin i was actually writing a novel, kind of a satirical novel about a charismatic preacher who would take over the small town and i thought about jim jones, another hoosier and so i google's him and learned that the fbi
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released all the documents they found in jonestown and that no one had used those to craft the book. and so what happened was for those that don't know, after a congressman from california, which is south of here, decided to go to jonestown to investigate claims that people were being held against their will, and as he was leaving, a group of people from jonestown decided to join him the wanted out and so jim jones knew the gig was up when those people left to come back to the states they were going to tell about the conditions in jonestown. so what he did is he sick to the security guards on to this party as they were waiting of this jungle and they killed congressmen ron and i and members of the people were leaving. so the fbi then goes and -- it's
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a federal investigation into the congressman as the first congressman killed in the line of duty in the u.s. history -- the fbi goes in to jonestown after they cleared the body and they just start collecting documents as evidence trying to figure out what happened, what the conspiracy to call the congressman, and they go through literally letters that were never sent home, diaries, reports, meeting notes, they collect 50,000 pieces of paper, and there would be like, i don't know, i figure about 150 300 novels, said that is the material i was working with and when i started working with the heavily redacted couldn't read anything and then as i was about to turn the book in the released and redacted versions of the document, so i took another six months to read through a and i could finally see who was viewing what and ordering site
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in mind, who was planning to kill everyone, so those kind of interesting. i'm going to just read to you -- first i guess i should explain the structure of the book. 918 people died that day. so my way and since everyone knows how jonestown in this is to pick five different people who represent different demographics that were attracted to jim jones. so you have, for the simple, a middle-aged white woman, college-educated, and was a progressive and really wanted to do something to help the cause of minorities and african-americans and was drawn to jim jones church which at the time was seen as this progressive force of the movement here in san francisco.
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so you have her at one end of the spectrum. the other and you have sammy clafin, this african-american young man from oakland who was brought up in a broken home, pingree, saw everything kind of in racial terms, and for him jim jones message about the quality of establishing this utopia where there would be no racism or sexism or egotism, that fell sweetly on his years and so he was drawn to jim jones. so you have, you know, it wasn't just blacks or whites, it was kind of this 70's mix of people who really wanted to do something to improve, you know, social justice. another person i follow-through is tommy who was sent down to jonestown as a teenager kind of like i was sent down to my reform school as a teenager he was sent to jonestown to straighten -- to get straightened out.
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he was skipping class and stopped going to church so he was sent down there to isolate him from - peters, and i really bonded with tommy and one thing people don't realize is that a third of the people who died in the jonestown massacre were minors, so that is another perspective. what is it like to be in a church because your parents are members and in jonestown had no say in the matter. i also provide all his father so tommy and jim, stanley clayton, the young man from oakland, who worked out bechtel as a secretary and then there are these two sisters from alabama who joined jones church back in
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indianapolis and they joined in the 50's in indianapolis. when jim jones' first started people's temple, and he really was at the cutting edge of the civil rights movement there. he was integrating his church, integrating lunch counters, he was going around to the hospitals, but you know, they were drawn again to the message of equality. they saw him on television one some day they turn on the television and they saw his choir and this young preacher inviting people all colors to come to his church and to that i was a revelation so they ended up in jonestown. so, through the book i introduce you to these different people and hopefully you become emotionally attached to them and understand a little bit more why it was that people in the devin jonestown.
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you know, one of the hopes i have for this book is it changes perceptions about what happens that the people who -- it is so people now for people to be announced the victims and even susan jacoby to is a respected cultural historian recently called them in her book of the psychotic to lead drinkers of jonestown, but this book challenges those notions and sets the record straight about how trapped people work in jonestown and how isolated and there was no way out and that is what i found in these documents from the letters of the people saying i want to go home. i had no idea that it was like this. please, my children are scared just let me go home and they wouldn't let anybody leave.
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but the essential argument in my book and what i discovered in my research is that he was planning to fill his followers for years before he brought them to jonestown. he talked about loading them up into buses and driving of the bosses of the golden gate bridge. he talked about loading them onto an airplane and crashing into the ocean and of course the rank-and-file members had no idea that these secret conversations were going on. it was his inner circle that tended to be these nihilistic people that kind of reflected his own character, so that is the most heartbreaking thing about what happened in johnstown is the rank-and-file who went down there, the work of the inner city, the progressives, they went down to jonestown thinking they were going to partaken this great social experiment, that they were going
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to stay for a month and send their kids off for a semester abroad and then they would come home and then once they got down there jim jones took away their passport, they're money and said no one is going home, no one can leave and that is the most chilling thing i found my research. and she's starting to talk about the fact that some day they are going to commit revolutionary suicide. some day they are going to die. when he first brings this up people are likely the second we didn't come down here to die. we came together for children a better life. and they would argue with him night after night with these meetings in the pavilion of johnstown and they would say we want to defend our community. we want to live and you have to read the book but eventually he
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was able to break them down by depriving them of food and sleep and by telling them they were surrounded by mercenaries in the jungle who were about to come and attack them and their children and he had his conspirators go to the jungle to shoot at the camp to make it look like there were people in the jungle about to attack them. the amount of planning and the orchestration that went into that final night are just astounding to me. the methodical nature of his breaking down their willpower in other fights, the psychological resistance so i'm going to read to you very briefly about the first time he brings up the idea
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of the revolutionary suicide and by the way i should say huey newton, the co-founder of the black panthers wrote an autobiography called revolutionary suicide and what he meant by the term is that they should go down fighting instead of going down passively. well, jim jones took it to mean we are going to create mass suicides to promote capitalism. he really took these words and twisted them into something altogether different. so this happens on december 9th, 19707 so a year before the actual death. on december 9th, jim jones'
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mother died of emphysema in youngstown. a few hours after her death and emotional jones summoned his followers to the pavilion. he described his mother's last moments as she gasped for air her tongue hanging out and saliva flowing down her face. he invited people who knew her to take a last look at her. although she looked for a sick while she died he said that in death she looked very well indeed. she was the one person jones allowed to call the bluff and get away with it. in jonestown when she overheard him bragging about shooting a turkey with a pistol but 200 yards distance she laughed and called over her daughter-in-law that man didn't shoot a turkey anyone knows you can't shoot anything with a pistol from 200 yards. when she died her moderating
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influence vanished and another record tethering him to reason snapped. a few weeks later in the middle of a rambling screed he asked his followers have many of you plan your def? there was a silence. don't you ever plan your debt to the -- death. you're going to die, don't you think you should plan such mn important event? he called on the 75-year-old texan. don't you ever plan your def? on a tape recording of the conversation she sounds has a tent. no she said, finally. why don't you come he asked i don't know, i just haven't.
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don't you think it's time to think about it? it's a terrible thing to have it be an accident and like my mother we stand lead in a box. it's kind of a waste, don't you think? the old woman was confused. she thought jones was talking there of life insurance. my husband quit paying it and i didn't have any money and i just let it go and haven't thought more about it. i'm not talking about insurance, jones said, i'm talking about planning your debt for the victory of the people come for socialism, communism, black liberation, oppressed operation. how much have you thought of taking a bonding and grounding into a ku klux klan meeting? and microphone buzzed loudly in during jones. he ordered the people in the back to stop playing with their babies and pay attention.
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in eight ural by racial girl raised her hand. she too was confused. what does planning your death meen she asked sweetly. on tape her voice is shockingly clear and innocent and his response he lost into a diatribe whose essence was captured in the sentence a healthy person has to think through or he may sell out. this was jim jones deepest fear that his followers would sell out or be try him if they left his church. he would rather they died first. when somebody's principled they are ready to die at the snap of a finger they told their followers, and that is what i want to build in you, that same type of character to be if he began talking up the various methods of dying.
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drowning they say is one of the easiest ways of the world to die it is just a numbing and sleepy sensation. the crowd was solemn in their lack of enthusiasm infuriated him. some of you people get so nervous every time i talk about death, he shouted. he stuck out his tongue and pretended to gag as he had seen his father do as she died. the crowd laughed uneasily. and elderly woman refused to smile at his antics and he turned on her. you're going to die someday, honey. he bellowed, you'll bitch, you are going to die >> taken from audio tape in young jonestown the f.b.i. collected about a thousand audiotapes i was able to use for the first time and, you know, i
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can't imagine being in that crowd that night when all of a sudden this man you respected, this creature, this progressive figure in the san francisco politics is suddenly saying you know, you need to plan your death and billing at an old woman calling her a bitch i can imagine what that would have been like sitting there with a child during this conversation. people take away from my book a better understanding of what's happened in jonestown. he told another tape of people who want to leave we are not going to pay your effing we home if you want to go home you can
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swim home. over and over he is telling them no one is going home. we are all going to be here and die together. i've been to jonestown. i went there in 2008 and it's so isolated, even today. in the 70's people had to take a today boat trip up to get there. there were no phones. the was a hand radio but he controlled it. he sends your all of the mail going out and that's another heartbreaking thing the fbi agents recovered is all these letters that were never given to residents saying you know, so and so, you need to come home, mom is dying and she wants to see you before she goes. please. they were never given these letters and letters to their relatives and loved ones and family were never delivered either. so i just hope again that by
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reading this people will gain a better understanding and the phrase drinking of the kool-aid is so offensive. most people have heard that phrase but most young people especially born after 1980 have no idea where it comes from that it originates from this horrific event in jonestown. so maybe after reading this book that fees' won't be bandied about as it is now. anyway, i would like to open up for questions. yes? [applause] >> about 30 years ago i did a piece for atlantic on a rush
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niche so i am a little more cynical than you are. on a feel for the children who suffered this but in terms of the adults, as i said i have seen people succumb to the ideologies which have been so harmful to people, the ideologies of religion coupled the the july issue of politics that is in and of themselves difficult and can be destructive put together as jones did and a room that is destructive. the question i have for you, just going quickly through your book i see a lot of people who were involved in helping create this image of jones being an honorable and good and revolutionary person including harvey milk, sorry they really
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helped him and deserved for that just as other things. others like angela davis and huey newton and kpfk's news department which never ceased to praise jones because they saw him as a fellow ideologue so the question i have for you is have you gone to these prominent people and asked them how they could justify creating the myth of james jones like so many people including people like angela davis who should hang her head in shame >> well as you say the politicians cornered him and came to the temple because jones had his command 3,000-foot
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soldiers willing to go out in this neighborhood and people's demonstrations and cross voting districts to get people elected and i found a tape where he's basically saying you helped get me elected therefore i'm going to make to the head of the housing authorities and the obligations of the physical abuse and financial misdeeds that he helped elect the mayor mosconi, the attorney joseph, a council member harvey milk, they turned a blind eye, you are right. of course milken and mosconi were killed about ten days after the massacre happened but you had jane fonda, willie brown, angela davis. on the outside people's temple
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looked good and i talked about in the prologue that for me growing up as i did with a black brother always feeling like a misfit and looking for a place to belong -- if i had come to a temple services say on a sunday and i had seen this i would have definitely been interested. my brother david and i, i would have been interested because of his message of justice. i would have been interested because there was love between the temple members. i mean, having agronomist church it is so much more than just its leader it's a relationship you have with the others and if your kid is becoming friends with them it's like for example a young man like stanley clinton whose mother didn't give a damn about him and was going about stealing from grocery stores to get something to eat while his younger brother was crawling with ha under the temple offered
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him a place to sleep and got him out of jail early release and encouraged him to get his ged. the temple ran all kind of services. a drug rehab, child care for working moms, medical care for the elderly and impoverished people. it looked really good on the outside. i think it is kind of hard to blame these people in retrospect you can see jim jones was an evil man so he broke the story about what was happening in the new west magazine and all of this came out he held a tight rein on the communications and what was going on at the church. angelo wouldn't speak to me.
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she's a very busy woman. i'm wondering about your research and how we were able to gain access to the files. was that difficult, what was the process like for you? >> there was the freedom of information act lawsuit was filed by relatives of people who died in jonestown and there is a professor at san diego state university who had her sisters killed in jonestown so for her and her husband this is a personal effort and they kept filing a lawsuit after lawsuit to get the files released and then the fbi to release the files without an index so it's like a letter the release on the
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3-cd is so ct one, page 208 with end on page 50. so they put all this information together and beauvis and myself are the only ones that have these documents in their entirety and a lot of them are just very tedious documentation like purchase orders but everyone's in a while you come to something like this document, which is the camp doctor in charge of trying to figure out how to tell everyone so on wednesday the camp doctor stopped delivering babies and suturing wounds and went into his lab and tried to figure out how to kill everyone.
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this is stranger than fiction. he tried to develop botulism and toxins and failed to. he would grow these cultures in baby food jars he collected in the nursery and this memo to jones he writes syenite is one of the most lively active pleasants. i had misgivings about its effectiveness but further research and gained confidence at least theoretically. i would like to give about to grand to see how effective it is in the documents you can see who is responsible for what and talking about killing everybody off in jonestown and it's interesting there's another woman that was a probation
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officer in california smuggling guns down to jonestown in shipping crates. she is now in upstate new york, kind of disappeared into the woodwork as a lot of the leadership did active in the massacre she's about to get a rude surprise as the reporters on her tail. once they released the on redacted version they could see who was to blame for what it took me a year to appease the documents together and figure out, put them in chronological order. everybody knows how jonestown in this book they don't know how my people in the and hopefully they will engage you enough to want to read through an entire book and figure out what happens to them speak to start with good
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intent and then you get sort of carried away and are so mired in your ideologies that it eventually becomes. and i was just wondering if he went through a similar cycles will transition where he genuinely was arranged by what happened and wanted to fix that and then as he saw the people were charmed by him the power got to his head and it's so hard and fascinating to see someone who wants to do good in the world and then eventually kill followers and that is so
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perplexing. anyway i was just wondering what you found out. >> i think it's an interesting question whether jones really believed in social justice and equal the war in the 50's when he was starting his ministry he stumbled across this formidable group that wanted to hear this message and then in the 60's african-americans who are not happy with the advance of the civil rights movement and here was this preacher that wanted to go further and he was really out there not militant like black panthers but he had seen publicly and out race and racism in america and i think that is an interesting question. it's hard to say. his was a first family to adopt
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an african-american baby into indiana said he integrated his whole family and later adopted kids from korea so his family was a reflection of his estate of ideologies. whether he really believed in social justice to that point or -- it's hard to tell. i do think that he looks for this authority people to be configured like the first time he went to church and coming from below full of that type of he saw the creature getting this respect and attention and inspection from the congregation
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that's what he wanted for himself and eventually that power and the control got the better of him and was in indianapolis when someone tried to left his church he was sending this man notes saying it is god will that you stay in my church if you leave something bad will happen to you so there's early evidence he had a need to control his followers and later that became more exacerbated. [inaudible] >> a friend of a friend of mine and a -- remember him and his movement and contributed to it financially and what not and then at some point she became
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disillusioned with that and my friend asked her why and the response was she was convinced jones was mentally ill and i wonder if you have a comment >> he was emotionally disturbed if not mentally ill idled think he was diagnosed. after you read the book you can tell me. again the way he controls people, the extent to which he did it he was growing the movement where it is you were either 40 quality or against it.
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everything was kind of black and white with him. people would turn over their real-estate holdings and all of their wealth to the church and move into a tumble commune and one woman has done that when she realizes something is wrong with jim jones but her sister is in the church and believes and gets angry every time they try to talk to her and he is giving all of her worldly belongings to the church. she can't a skate, she doesn't know what to do. so she will come back and live within a few jim jones is saying nobody is leaving. it's hard to say paris a moment
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among people who knew jones well and know for that sample he was having liaisons' as the control factor. as you got for their not the rank-and-file he had a satellite church in los angeles and a lot of people from that church you would see jim jones on sunday and wouldn't have anything to do with him the rest of the weekend they decided to go to jonestown and take a leave of some sense and all of a sudden they were down there trapped having no idea what the plans were. you mentioned a letter somebody
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might use say my mother died of like to go home and so forth and then you also mentioned to you thought even of the year before when his mother died in 77 he was actually contemplating and you mentioned the letter of the doctor he was planning to kill him but on the day that it happened the plane landed on the landing strip he took out his fired and etc and the journalists and the examiner and the chronicle one of which was killed and the others survived but the thing is it happened in a negative way in other words they developed in its own way and he may or may not have had these intentions and he already pumped them. the first it's not just the committed suicide they also committed several murders on
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that date and there was a truck that went to the landing strip and he killed representative ron and from the chronicle were i can't figure out which one it was so it was a combination of suicide and murder and scores this chief survived like larry d├ętente, for example michael haynes. it's a little bit more question but what made the narrative of that day unfold the way that it did and it seems to me having read this about this. whose wife was apparently going back to civilization with representative ryan and apparently the husband did not want his wife and other kids to go back. this particular episode in the day's events was sure that from
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the public after it happened. i read the newspapers that said and the to the page after page of documentation had dhaka and stuff going back to jones and so forth but the actual incident was representative brian busbee each he made saying after this thing about ryan we have to commit suicide because they're going to hold this against this and live out with military force in other words of the impending invasion on the camp because he tried to make the gesture so it seems to me like there is a double suicide plus homicide. does that just happen and where things get of control but then he had this and to of guys that went to the airstrip. it seems like the whole thing
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was may be an orchestrated but it somehow involved in this island and it kind of revealed this self they kept on tugging away and going on. what happens is people couldn't stop it or something. i'm not sure. >> what is your question mix ackley ? >> you say that he wanted to do that. i wonder if that might not have been true in other words the evens of the day precipitated everything. if he hadn't tried to assassinate jones would have continued another. he was worried he would write the amount in one year a year at a time. we left jonestown with not only the media but also.
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jones had them rehearsing and if you go to my website you can listen to some of the audio. they had reporters answers to questions. fricks' able towards the end of jonestown all the residents ate with this kind of gravy with vegetables but not enough protein. the people who survived lost 30, 40 pounds. it was crazy how much weight. so, and weak and he had been rehearsing in jonestown. that's not good enough. what do we eat here?
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we have pork, chicken, steak, he really wanted that jonestown was a great utopia to continue and so left with leal rye and he knew they were going to come back and talk to the media but that feature is now of redo we knew everyone and still. he knew the gig was up and what precipitated that? he was able to say after his security guard shot upon ryan some are now implicated in this crime we always said it is one for all all for one and not the guy and the army is going to close in and torture us and so it would be better to take on the potion and for the custody of her side.
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>> one more question. >> did you speak to the department of justice or other investigators? >> i spoke with indigent on the scene of jonestown after the massacre he was a lead photographer who was down there. as far as the department of justice, i mean most of their documentation including all of their internal investigation was released in these files and that is what i work off.
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[inaudible] [applause] >> this event was hosted by the museum. to find out more about the events, visit coming of next booktv presents afterwards like an hour-long program we invite guest hosts to interview authors to read this week pat buchanan and his latest book suicide of a superpower. the former nixon adviser argues america is suffering from a moral and social collapse that may be permanent. he discusses claims with ralph nader consumer advocate and presidential candidate.


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